Comparing car insurance quotes

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Finding the best car insurance for the cheapest rates is something anyone can do. And it’s worth it: auto insurance quotes vary, so making the effort to get several quotes — we recommend at least three — can result in saving hundreds of dollars each year.

Many insurers make it easy for you to get a quote online by answering a few questions. For others, you may need to pick up the phone to call an insurance agent. No matter how you do it, understanding the quote you get is essential to getting the right coverage.

Understanding car insurance quotes

What are auto insurance quotes? Simply put, they are an estimate of what your monthly premium payment will be if you sign up with the company. Online quotes are a good first step, but speaking with an agent can get you a more accurate quote.

There are many factors that go into your quote, which is personalized to reflect you and your car. Every insurance company has a different method of determining quotes. You can get quotes from two companies for exactly the same coverage, but they may differ by hundreds of dollars.

You should never have to pay to receive a quote — reputable companies offer them for free. Your quote will include your state’s mandatory minimum liability coverage along with any optional coverages you choose, such as collision or comprehensive insurance.

What you’ll need to get free car insurance quotes

Although each insurance company has its own formula for determining your car insurance quote, there are certain factors that all companies will ask for, including the following.

Your driving record

The better your driving record, the lower your rate. The key concept is risk: if an insurer thinks that you’re a high risk for filing a claim, the provider will charge you more to cover that risk. A clean driving record, therefore, will result in a lower premium than if you’ve got a stack of parking tickets or moving violations in your name.

Your personal characteristics

Insurers take into account your age, gender and marital status. Again, it’s all about risk. Providers know, for example, that teen male drivers cause more accidents than teen female drivers. To account for that, premiums will be higher for young men. Women tend to pay slightly less than men, and the rates for young drivers are high, then become lower until about age 60, when they begin to rise again. Married drivers are considered a safer bet than single ones too.

Your car

You’ll need to know the VIN number of your car to get a quote, or at least, the make and model number. Some cars are more expensive to repair than others, and so someone driving a Tesla Model S, for example, will pay more than a driver with a Honda Civic. Your car’s age also is important: newer cars tend to be more expensive to insure than older.

Where you live

There are two elements to consider here. First, the state you live in will impact your rates, because insurance is largely regulated on the state level, and each state has its own minimum coverage levels. Second, whether you live in an urban or rural area matters. Statistically, more accidents happen in the city than the country, so your rates will be higher if you’re in a large urban area.

The coverage you want

Obviously, the higher the limits of your coverage and the more types of coverage you get, the higher your premium. You’ll pay less if you have your state’s minimum liability coverage than if you have a robust, full policy that includes comprehensive, collision, and other optional coverages such as gap insurance.

Comparing quotes from different car insurance companies

What’s the best way to compare quotes from different car insurance companies? Here are the steps you should take to be able to glean the information you need to make a good, educated, choice:

  • Request the coverage you need: Determine how much insurance you want, and what types of coverage you need. Not sure? Check out our Car Insurance 101 to get your head around the basics.
  • Get similar quotes: When asking for quotes, make sure you’re requesting the same coverage from each company, so that you have an apples-to-apples comparison. If you’re not sure what to ask for because you don’t know the cost, get quotes for several levels of coverage.
  • Get several quotes: One good plan is to get quotes from a variety of types of insurers, including traditional agencies, such as Allstate and Geico, which usually have online quote tools on their websites, and local agencies that work in your region and have good feet-on-the-ground knowledge of the issues related to driving in your area.
  • Investigate customer service levels: Pay attention to the level of customer support insurance agents give you, and look at online reviews from organizations such as the Better Business Bureau and J.D. Power, which measure customer satisfaction. A great rate won’t do you any good if you can’t get an agent to answer your questions and work with you on claims. You may find it’s worth the money to go with a company that may not give the lowest rates but has excellent customer service.

These steps will help you evaluate providers.

How to save on auto insurance quotes

There are several things you can do to earn a cheaper premium rate. As we mentioned above, things like your age, gender, and marital status play a part in your rate — but there’s not much you can do about any of that. That doesn’t mean you can’t help yourself get the best rate possible, though.

Discounts

Most insurers offer discounts, and some are easy to get. You’ll find discounts for having multiple policies with the same insurer, good driver discounts, and even discounts for paying your bill electronically.

Telematics

Telematics is real-time technology that is installed in your car and monitors your skills while you’re driving. Examples of this are Progressive’s Snapshot program and Allstate’s Drivewise. It costs you nothing to participate, and you’ll be rewarded with reduced premiums if the telematic device proves you to be a good driver.

Deductibles

If you can afford to raise your deductible, you can save 15 to 30 percent on your premiums. That’s a significant cut. If you’re not sure that you can take your deductible from, say, $200 to $500, commit to putting away the premium savings in an account so that in the event of an accident, you’d have the necessary amount stashed away to pay the deductible.

Your credit score

You might not think that your credit score has anything to do with your driving, but excellent credit will earn you a lower premium. Insurers reason that if you’re stable and conscientious about your credit, you’ll be the same way in your driving. If you know you’re going to be shopping for car insurance in the near future, pay off as many short-term debts as you can and be sure to make payments on time to increase your credit score.

Frequently asked questions

What insurance companies offer the cheapest rates?

No one company is cheapest all the time, which is why we suggest getting several quotes to see who offers the best rate for your circumstances. Our report on the cheapest car insurance companies of 2020 may help you decide who to call.

How do I know what types of coverage I need?

To begin with, you need to have at least the minimum liability coverage for your state. You may also want collision and comprehensive, to pay for repairs to you own car. Check with your potential insurer about what other types of coverage they offer to see if anything else makes sense for you.

What cars are the cheapest to insure?

Generally, the cheapest cars to insure are SUVs and midsize vehicles. Topping our list of the 20 cheapest cars to insure is the Mazda CX-3 Sport, followed by the Honda CR-V LX and Wrangler Sport S.